Speech Prosody 2010

Chicago, IL, USA
May 10-14, 2010

Categorization of Lexical Tones in Mandarin-Learning Infants

Jun Gao (1), Rushen Shi (2), Aijun Li (3)

(1) Graduate School, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China
(2) Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada
(3) Institute of Linguistics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China

It is well-known that children are born with the perceptual ability to discriminate not only native phonetic contrasts, but also non-native ones. However, recent research suggests that not all contrasts are equally discriminable. Children cannot discriminate some acoustically similar phonetic contrasts early in infancy. They need a certain period of exposure with these contrasts to learn to discriminate them. In this study we inquired if similar lexical tones are discriminable in young infants. Mandarin-learning 4-13-month-olds' categorization of Mandarin rising and dipping tones were assessed in a visual habituation procedure. The results show that infants successfully categorized the two similar tones.

Index Terms: infant speech perception, language acquisition, categorization, lexical tones

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Gao, Jun / Shi, Rushen / Li, Aijun (2010): "Categorization of lexical tones in Mandarin-learning infants", In SP-2010, paper 946.